Deep Blue Sea

Deep Blue Sea

Dr. Ben S. Malayang III, President
(Sermon delivered on June 15, 2014 at the Silliman University Church.)

TEXT   Exodus 14:10-16

Imagine you’re Moses. You are leading a people, weak because of years of slavery, poor and defenseless, plodding slowly across a vast, hot desert, urged on by the powerful promise of freedom. You find your way blocked by the sea. You realize you can’t move on ahead. Then you see swirling clouds of dust behind you, moving rapidly towards you. You know what it is. An army in chariots with spears, arrows and swords, coming to slaughter you or to bring you back into slavery. If you’re like most of us, one word describes what you feel – fear!

Let us pray: Grant us Lord serenity of spirit to hear what you have to say, and humility of heart to accept what we hear. Grant us your understanding so that your Word becomes to us a message of hope. Grant us a quiet mind so we can hear your still small voice amid the turmoil of our souls. We pray in Christ’s name, Amen.

This guy Moses is amazing! This man, told by God to lead a people to freedom, the father of an Exodus nation, a giant in Biblical history, apparently does not have basic boy scouting skills. He led a whole nation to march out of Egypt but didn’t know how to read a map and as events showed, didn’t know where to go. He led his people into the sea, and unable to go forward. Now, come on, didn’t he stop to ask for directions? Or ask some shepherds or nomads along the way for where the road they were taking will lead them?

Incredible, but true. Whether because of blind bravado or obstinacy to keep to a chosen course of action, or simple incompetence, Moses got his people into a hopeless and helpless corner. They can’t move forward and the Egyptian army was behind them. And, get this, he will do it again later! He’ll lead his people into places where there was no food and no water, and he didn’t have provisions for these. This guy seems almost like a nincompoop, incredibly lacking in foresight and planning skills.

But you see, Moses had faith. He had confidence in a God that to him was a real presence in all he was doing. As sure as he saw real faces of real people noisily babbling around him, and as sure as he felt the searing desert sun, he saw God with him. As David would put it later in Psalms 34:8, he could “taste and see” God.

Hopelessly and helplessly wedged between evil and the deep blue sea, when all seems lost, Moses stood still, quited, made serene by a force that nothing could compare to make one so at peace in the face of danger. This is the force of faith, a faith that assures one to hope, so powerfully hopeful that it obliterates all fear. As was said in Hunger Games, “hope is the only thing more powerful than fear”, and so it is, especially when anchored on faith on a God that is above all that can be feared.

It is in fact when we are entirely hopeless and helpless that God reveals His power and majesty. In the stillness of Moses’ soul, amidst the loud and noisy cries of anguish of the people around him all fearing certain death, God came once more to Moses. Moses didn’t know what to do, but God did. Moses turned to God and God was there.

Then another incredible thing happened. As incredibly as Moses had seemed so incompetent to lead his people into the edge of the sea, God showed his power by asking Moses to do what seem to be something that can’t do much to change the situation. God didn’t tell Moses to take out whatever weapons they could make out of their meager belongings, or line up into some combat position, God simply told Moses to just raise his hand and point the wooden staff in his hand toward the sea.

God told Moses to do an incredibly simple act to respond to a very dire and serious situation.

But you see, it was not about Moses, or about what Moses can do. It was all about God and what God can do. Moses was but the visible instrument with which God wields His power. The instrument itself, like a hammer, can’t by itself do much. It is when it is in the hands of a powerful and creative carpenter that it can build mansions!

So it was. The sea opened up and Moses and his people were saved. It was not Moses that saved his people. It was God.

We don’t have to look far back to Moses. All of us, many times, find ourselves wedged between deep danger and a deep sea of helplessness. We find ourselves unable to pay bills when they’re already due. A mother or father or child is sick, and we don’t have money to see a doctor or buy medicines. Someone we love is dying, and all we can do is cry. You are a ftaher, and you lost your job. We become terrifyingly helpless. Something needs to be done, yet we don’t have the means to do it. Hopelessness, helplessness, dread, and fear too often come to us and we agonize when we seem unable to do something about them.

So do institutions like Silliman. There is real danger that in the face of the next five to seven years when, because of the reforms in education in our country which require sacrifices before we can achieve real gains, there would be five years when Silliman (like most higher education institutions in the Philippines) will have no college enrolment in one or two year levels. No enrolment in first year college in 2016, then in first and second years in 2017, second and third years in 2018, third and fourth years in 2019, then the whole fourth year in 2020. In these years, Silliman will not have whole big chunks of college tuition revenues. Over half in 2017 alone.

Danger? Indeed! Like Moses, what would Silliman and any of us do in the face of much reduced capacity to avert peril and catastrophe?

Like in any circumstance of peril and danger, whether in our personal lives, in our families, at work, or in our school, we do a Moses. We must all do a Moses. Let us muster the faith to keep still, and to listen to what God tells us to do. Let us hope on God’s power to liberate and preserve His – God’s – continuing purposes for us, our church, our communities, and on His – God’s – ministry in our university.

God will not fail.

In our helplessness and in seeming hopeless situations anywhere and anytime – let us – all of us – keep the faith, stand serene and listen to God’s still small voice, and be prepared to do what He – God – will tell us to do.

What He might ask us to do may seem ridiculously simple.

But it will have the power to make things right.